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Other views: Tourism potential huge in N.D.

The potential for North Dakota tourism to be bigger than it has historically been has never been better. The state has the resources to better sell its attractions, and the national exposure from oil development in the west offers a unique opportunity to showcase far more than oil country. All that’s needed now is a little legislative enlightenment.

The North Dakota Tourism, Division, under the capable direction of Sara Otte Coleman, has made great strides in the past few years. Despite budget constraints, Otte Coleman and her staff have raised North Dakota’s profile on the regional and national tourism map. They have spent wisely in order to tell the state’s story, and results have been good.

It’s an especially opportune time to talk North Dakota tourism. The state celebrates its 125th birthday this year with all sorts of commemorative events, one of which is the Nov. 2 grand opening of the spectacular new Heritage Center on the Capitol grounds in Bismarck. The other, in August, is a Capitol grounds concert featuring several North Dakota performers.

But in addition to the birthday celebrations, the state has attractions in every corner, many of which are not well-known. State tourism has prepared brochures and an online presence that showcases many of them.

Whether a RedHawks baseball game in Fargo, or a University of North Dakota hockey game in Grand Forks, or a canoe excursion on the Little Missouri River in the Badlands, or fishing for trophy walleye and northern pike at Devils Lake, the state has a lot for tourists to enjoy.

Everything points to a banner year for North Dakota tourism, which is the third-largest economic sector in the state after agriculture and energy. So tourist traffic is important not only to polishing the state’s image but also to keeping the economy humming.

One caution: North Dakota Tourism does a great job, but much more could be done if the Legislature appropriated more money. North Dakota’s expenditures on tourism are among the smallest in the nation. Other states with lesser economic success spend more, and it pays off for them. Wealthy North Dakota can do better. And given the stewardship demonstrated by Otte Coleman and her staff, lawmakers should do more to build on success.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.